Korean Modern: The Matter of Identity

Authors: Peter G. Rowe, Yun Fu and Jihoon Song

Birkhἂuser, 2021.

This book is about the formal identity of modern architecture in Korea and more recently in South Korea. This development is closely tied to the dramatic transformations that occurred since the late 19th century, when the reign of the Joseon Dynasty, which had dominated the country for half a millennium, came to a close. The book then traces the coming-in-to-being of unique Korean architectural modernism through four decades of Japanese colonial rule, several phases of authoritarian government, and stabilization since the founding of the Sixth Republic. Architectural analyses range from the Hwaseong Fortress to 21st century constructions and is well illustrated. Throughout, the focus is on the formation of a specifically and observable Korean modernism. An appendix includes biographical descriptions of major architectural figures.


  1. Introduction
    On Modernity and a Path-Dependent Turn
    On Koreaness: Han Minjok and Reaching Out
    Organization of the Book.
  2. Movement in the Late Joseon Dynasty
    King Jeongjo Proceeds to Hwaseong Fortress
    The Geojunggi and Architectural Depiction
    Consolidation of Power Towards the Gwangmu Reforms
    The Gyeongbokgung Restoration
  3. Under the Thumb of Colonial Rule
    Three Phases of Colonial Rule
    Architectural Symbols of Colonial Rule
    Places of Worship in the Manner of the West
    Two Department Stores and Modernity
    A Modernism of the East
  4. The Generals, Park’s Regime and Followers
    The Rise of Chung-hee Park
    The Two Architects Kim
    Re-Interpreting and Sublimating Tradition
    Employing Modern Technology
    Pulling Up with the Times
  5. Modern Democracy and the 4.3 Group
    The Building of a New Korea
    The Beauty of Poverty and Structuring Emptiness
    Making Frames, Walls and Voids
    Architectural Essences and Themes.
  6. The Sixth Republic and Returning Contemporaries
    Spatial Recoveries
    Spatial Flows
    Reaching Cultural Potentials
  7. Koreaness: Some Observations
    Traditional Tropes
    Efficient Project Delivery
    Consolidating Identity